Where it Began
Imagine for a moment; you and a companion are traversing a dark and damp tunnel system beneath decimated military fort. Every fourth step you take the ground shakes from the battle taking place on the surface. As the light from your torch begins to fade, you notice a dim light peeking through a crevice in the wall. Once you and your companion squeeze through the fracture in the cave wall, you are suddenly overcome with joy upon the realization that you made it out of the cave and away from the battle. You then take a large breath of relief and observe the beauty of the Skyrim countryside. Though immediately after you exhale, a large dark creature flies above you. The ground violently shakes with every slight motion of its massive wings. As the colossal dragon soars off into the distance, you quickly realize something greater than the relief of making it out of this encounter unscathed. You realize that the world in front of you is a living being that is bestowing you with a multitude of epic adventures to take part in as well as many mysteries to unravel.
It was upon my completion of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’s prologue, that I truly fell in love with the vastness and complexity that the Elder Scrolls universe had to offer. For over two decades, Bethesda Game Studios has not only crafted one of the most beloved action role-playing game series to ever grace the genre, but it has also created one of the most fascinating and thought-provoking universes in all of video games.
Although Bethesda and other subsidiary studios have created ten standalone games within the franchise, the games have only taken place within a small portion of the overall timeline. This leaves many aspects of the lore and backstory of the universe unknown to the average player. Many of these unexplored events are explained through a variety of in-game sources such as NPC dialogue and collectible books.
Researching and describing details like origins of the planet Nirn, the provinces and races of Tamriel, the timeline of major events, the varying religions and interactions with the Gods of Tamriel, etc. can be a very daunting task for the most experienced lore-master. But it is the purpose of this article and future articles to help bring together information from all the games and create a concise story that anyone can understand and enjoy.
Welcome to Tamriel
On the planet Nirn, rests the continent Tamriel. It is the primary setting for all the Elder Scrolls games and is home to a number elven, human, and beast races. There are other continents on the planet but they are only mentioned in in-game sources. The continents of Aldmeris, Yokuda, and Atmora are the ancient homelands of the elven races (Altmer, Ayleid, Dwemer, Snow Elves/Falmer, Chimer/Dunmer, Orsimer/Orcs, and Bosmer), Redguards, and Nords respectively. The continent of Akavir is a mysterious land to the East of Tamriel and is home to a variety of races that have had several encounters with the people of Tamriel. The final and most puzzling of the major continents of Nirn is Lyg. Lyg is a land that existed during the Dawn Era but unfortunately very little is known about the continent and its current interactions with the rest of Nirn
At the time of the most recent events in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Tamriel is made up of nine provinces. These provinces include: High Rock, Skyrim, Morrowind, Hammerfell, Cyrodiil, Black Marsh, Summerset Isles, Valenwood, and Elsweyr. As of the events in Skyrim, there are ten playable races that make up the population of Tamriel. These races include the Bretons and Orsimer of High Rock, the Nords of Skyrim, the Dunmer of Morrowind, the Redguards of Hammerfell, the Imperials of Cyrodiil, the Argonians of Black Marsh, the Altmer of the Summerset Isles, and the Khajiit of Elsweyr. It’s important to note that each race and their culture has originated from their respective province but they can reside in any other provinces of Tamriel. The interactions among all the playable races, as well as other non-playable races, have had a significant impact on many pivotal events throughout their history. Several of these pivotal events have been so significant, that they marked the beginning of a new era in Tamrielic history.
The timeline of Tamriel is divided into periods of time known as Eras. There have been six distinct eras in the history of Tamriel: The Dawn Era, the Merethic Era, the First Era, the Second Era, the Third Era, and the Fourth Era. The beginning and ending of each era has been marked by major historical events. Aside from the Dawn Era and the beginning of the Merethic Era, these historical events are usually indicated by the rise and fall of dynasties that ruled over Tamriel. For example, the Third Era began when Tiber Septim was proclaimed emperor and it ended with the conclusion of the Oblivion Crisis and the death of the last heir to the Septim Dynasty, Martin Septim. These periods of time are marred with many instances of violence between the people of Tamriel. Of the many factors that have driven these conflicts, the influence of the Tamrielic deities and religions is an important one.
Much like real life societies, religion also plays a critical role in Tamrielic society. Tamrielic religions vary widely across the continent and these variances largely depend on the culture of the different races. The one commonality among all the religions, is that they are polytheistic. Regardless of an individual’s religious preference, all races of Tamriel believe in entities known as the Aedra and Daedra. It is believed that the Aedra and Daedra are the descendants of the two cosmic forces that created the universe, Anu and Padomay. The Aedra are the gods that gave up their divinity to create the mortal realm of Mundus, while the Daedra are the gods that refused to give up their divinity. The Daedric Princes are the most powerful of the Daedra and they primarily reside in their own realms of Oblivion. They often interact with and manipulate the lives of mortals for their own personal gain. The worship and the interpretation of both the Aedra and Daedra largely depends on the culture of each race. For example, the Altmer worship a number Aedric deities and the Dunmer worship the Daedric Princes Azura, Mephala, and Boethia. Both sets of deities play important roles in the overall history of Tamriel and future articles will expand on their exploits within the lore.
The history of Tamriel and the whole Elder Scrolls universe is immeasurably complex. The origins of the many races and cultures of Nirn, the various instances of conflict and peace between those cultures, and the roles of the many Tamrielic deities are all qualities that have come to create this extensive universe. It is the complexity that makes exploring the lore a satisfying and worthwhile endeavor. Thus, the mission of future articles will be to shed light on the many stories and mysteries this incredible franchise.
Welcome to The Elder Scrolls…